Sherman's Food Adventures: March 2009

Wings Tap & Grill

So what do you think a restaurant named "Wings" specializes in? Uh... Chicken Yakitori? No. Believe it or not, it's famous for its wide variey of chicken wings. Yes, it's as simple as that. There are not many restaurants that have wings on the very first page of their menu. In fact, it's a whole page with 15 different flavours of wings. There are 4 locations in the GVRD: Abbotsford, White Rock, Surrey and Vancouver. I made it out to the Surrey location today since I was going to Costco, which is nearby.

I guess it's no surprise that I ordered 4 pounds of wings for my meal. Actually I shared 4 pounds of wings with Waffle Guy, I'm not capable of eating 4 pounds by myself anymore. That was possible 10 years ago! Actually, Vivian had 4 pounds by herself once and you gotta love a woman who can do that! Anyways, we decided to order 4 different flavours: Not-as-hot Buffalo, Jammin' Jamaican, Outback Cajun BBQ, and Hot n' Sour Shanghai. All the flavours were distinct and very yummy. The buffalo wings were mild, with just a hint of heat. The Jamaican ones were slightly spicy and a hint of sweet. The BBQ was pretty standard BBQ sauce, it was mostly sweet with some smokiness. The Shanghai sauce was tangy with a bit of spice. The wings themselves were cooked perfectly, they were large and very juicy. I guess if your restaurant is named Wings, they'd better be good. I can honestly say that these are some of the best wings in town; finer dining establishments withstanding.

We didn't have a chance to try the other food at Wings; but from what I've heard, we didn't miss much. One flavour of wings we did not try were the Wings of Fire, and for good reason. Apparently, everyone at the table must sign a waiver if you are going to order them. That's right, they are THAT hot. According to many online reviews, the service is supposed to be terrible at Wings. However, I would like to differ, it was attentive and friendly. We always had our drinks refilled without asking and extra napkins arrived as we needed them. I'm not sure if I'll ever have a chance to try the other food here since the wings are so good.

The Good:
- Big, juicy wings
- Good choice of flavours
- Attentive service (at least that's what I experienced)

The Bad:
- Heard that the other food is average (but I've yet to try it, so not sure if that's true)

Wings in Surrey on Urbanspoon

Pine House Bakery

If you live in the GVRD, there is a good chance you've have eaten pastries from Chinese bakeries. Yes, there are the usual suspects: BBQ Pork Buns, Cocktail Buns, Pineapple Buns, Egg Tarts, Curry Puff Pastries and Chicken Pie. There are a multitude of places that bake up these tasty treats such as Maxim's, St. Germain, Anna's, New Town, Pine House and many other independent bakeries.Today, we were driving home from Dim Sum and I noticed we were passing by Pine House Bakery on Hastings near Nanaimo. In a spur-of-the-moment decision, I brake hard and zip into the first available parking space I saw. Yes, I am perpetuating the stereotype that Chinese people can't drive. I'm not sure what made me stop, was it that Pine House is the best Chinese bakery in the GVRD? Absolutely not. Then why did I go get 16 assorted buns and pastries from somewhere I don't consider to be the best? Well, Pine House isn't the best, but certainly is not the worst. I was no where near a Maxim and I was pretty far from Richmond. I really had no choice.

I had the attack of the "I want Chinese buns and pastries" cravings. Yes, it's an odd craving, but trust me, it does happen to people. You suddenly want to taste the sweet, buttery coconut filling of a Gai Mei Bao (Cocktail Bun), enjoy the crumbly mess that is the Bor Lor Bao (Pineapple Bun) or bite into the sweet, fatty pork that is in the Char Sui Bao (BBQ Pork Bun). So I head into Pine House and I get the nice lady to stuff the box full of 16 buns and pastries. It could barely hold it all. No matter, I was planning on eating one anyways. That would've relieved the pressure of the really full box. So what is the difference between all the bakeries anyways? Well, naturally there is a difference in taste, appearance and fillings (no, not teeth fillings).

For example, T & T Supermarkets is a perfect example of the buns looking the part, but not necessarily tasting the part. For some reason, the flavour in T & T buns are a bit off (and greasy too). Maxim is a good example of a good balance between appearance, taste and value. It also is probably not the best bakery out there, but it a solid choice. Anna's is a no-risk place to get pastries as well. St. Germain is possibly one of the most expensive chain bakeries. However, somehow I find that their buns and pastries to be average. They look nice and all, but there isn't an abundance of filling and they don't taste much better than Maxim in my opinion. New Town is a bit more old school, but their apple tarts and egg tarts rock. I think New Town could be the best of the bunch. So where does that leave Pine House? I think Pine House looks the part. Well, except for the egg tart, it has a heavy crust and slightly sunken egg centre. I think the buns taste alright; but I do wish that they would put more filling in some of their pastries/buns (ie. more bbq pork, chicken or beef). With that being said, Pine House is still a decent choice if you have the Chinese pastry craving.

The Good:
- Many locations in the GVRD
- Cakes are good
- Good selection

The Bad:
- Some good pastries/buns, some not-so-good
- Lack of filling

Pine House Bakery (Various Locations)
2462 Hastings Street
Vancouver, B.C.
604-215-3370

Business Hours:
8:30am - 6:30pm (7 days a week)

Pine House Bakery on Urbanspoon

Dim Sum @ Red Star

We're very lucky to live in Vancouver. There are a lot of really good places to go for Dim Sum in the GVRD. Some of them include: Kirin, Victoria, Spicy Court, Fisherman's Terrace, Fortune House, Sea Harbour, Imperial, Sun Sui Wah and Red Star. I believe all of them are pretty good, you really can't go wrong with any of them. Although I have been to dinner at Red Star, I haven't had a chance to go for dim sum.

Goose wanted to meet up with my family (including kids and grandparents) for Dim Sum and I took the opportunity to suggest Red Star. We decided to make an early reservation (11am) because I've heard that it gets quite busy at around noon. Also, much like Fortune House, a reservation only puts you in a queue for a table with other people who made a reservation. The early reservation worked like a charm, we got a table immediately. However, the tables are crammed together and there is very little room to get by. We decided to order a few dishes first, then put in a second order later.

The first order consisted of: Haw Cheun Fun (Shrimp Rice Roll), Char Sui Bao (BBQ Pork Buns), Ngow Yiuk (Beef Meatballs), Fong Jow (Chicken Feet), Pai Gwut (Black Bean Spareribs) and of course Haw Gow (Shrimp Dumplings). The shrimp rice roll was probably one of the best I've had, it was soft and packed with a lot of big, crunchy shrimp. The sweet soy sauce was served hot on the side which helped maintain the temperature of the warm rice roll. The pork bun was soft and full of sweet BBQ pork. The beef meatballs weren't over saturated with baking soda and had the right amount of green onion, so that it didn't overwhelm the beef flavour.

The chicken feet were some of the best I've had. You're probably wondering: a) Why are you eating chicken feet, don't chickens run in their own poop? b) What's the difference between "good" chicken feet and "bad" chicken feet? Well, for question A, luckily, the first layer of skin has been removed, it's all clean! For B, bad chicken feet are over steamed to the point where the skin is broken. Moreover, bad chicken feet is over fried, where the tendons underneath the skin are melted away. Lastly, bad chicken feet are merely salty, with no distinguishing taste. I'm happy to report that the chicken feet at Red Star are none of those, it was both fluffy and flavourful in a sweet, salty and garlicky way. I bet for some of you, that was too much analysis of chicken feet!

The spareribs were... as you guessed it, good! They were very meaty, flavourful and had limited amount of fat. Most of the pieces were attached to a rib bone; thus, being very tender. Too many places put in crap pieces that are all fat or cartilage. Dim Sum wouldn't be Dim Sum without Haw Gow, so we ordered 2 steamers. Okay, I might sound like a broken record, but these are the best shrimp dumplings I've had in a while. First, the skin on them were super thin, to the point it was translucent. Second, the filling was completely filled with lots of whole, crunchy, cold-water shrimp.

Okay, after that, we were ready for more food! This is where it gets interesting. We asked the manager for another order sheet; but he tells us to use the old one and just circle what we want. Fine, we did that and handed it over to the server and we wait. We wait some more, and finally after 30 minutes, we figure out that he didn't put in our order! I guess we should have paid more attention since we didn't get a receipt that the order was put through; but they really should have better communication among staff. How can one person tell us one thing and the other not know we had filled in the order sheet? Anyways, to their credit, they put a rush on our order and it came out pretty fast.

So, for the second round, we had: Ja Leun (Rice Roll w/ Fried Donut), Haw Chuen Guen (Shrimp Spring Roll), Ngow Yiuk Cheun Fun (Beef Rice Roll), Hai Yiuk Choy Mui Gow (Crab, Shrimp and Vegetable Dumpling), Fish Maw with Shrimp Puree (the Chinese description did not translate well to English...) and Daan Tat (Egg Tart). Curiously, the fried donut in the Ja Leun was quite soft and dense; yet, it was still very pleasant to eat. The spring roll was crunchy and not oily on the outside; but was a bit greasy on the inside. The beef rice roll was excellent, packed with lots of beef. The crab topped shrimp dumpling was good; but wasn't all that memorable. The fish maw (fried fish air sac) was a bit over steamed and it became mostly melted mush. However, the shrimp puree on top was both plentiful and sweet tasting. Lastly, the egg tart wasn't very good, the tart shell was soggy.

Service at Red Star is quite attentive and efficient; yet, it's impersonal and robotic. Much like what I said at Spicy Court, you can replace all the staff with cyborgs and no one would notice the difference. In general, I think the Dim Sum at Red Star is very good. There are much more highlights than low lights. Moreover, dinner is pretty good too. For the time being, I would say it's one of the best in town (if money was no object). However, I need to revisit Imperial, Sea Harbour and Fisherman's Terrace to compare.

The Good:
- Excellent Dim Sum
- Good portions
- It wasn't too salty

The Bad:
- Expressionless staff
- A bit pricey
- Cramped seating arrangements

Red Star
8298 Granville Street
Vancouver, B.C.
604-261-8389

Business Hours:
10:30am - 3:00pm, 5:00pm - 10:00pm (Mon - Fri)
10:00am - 3:00pm, 5:00pm - 10:00pm (Sat & Sun)

Red Star Seafood on Urbanspoon

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Toyotomi

*Restaurant is now closed*

So you think that after eating a big lunch at No. 1 Shanghai with tonnes of carbs would stop me from eating again? Wrong! How about going to eat Japanese and more carbs! That's exactly what Viv and I did tonight as we decided to try Toyotomi. People keep raving about this place and I really wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. For the longest time, I didn't even know that Toyotomi was located near the corner of Hastings and Gilmore in Burnaby. It's not a really big restaurant and the front is quite unassuming. Inside, the place is downright small. You can barely get into the place since the entrance is narrow and there are people either waiting to pay or for a table. Also, you'd better like the people who sit near you, it's almost like they are sitting with you. However, the whole point of Toyotomi is not the comfort of your seat; rather, the quality of the food.

Looking around, there are 2 things that are apparent, the portions are good and the appearance of the food is inviting. Toyotomi has many of the deluxe rolls that are popular these days. These rolls are usually a fusion of flavours and are visually appealing. Moreover, they are larger with more than the standard 6 pieces. We started with the 2 daily specials: the Salmon Tartar and the Tuna Tempura. The tartar was very pleasant to eat, it was lightly flavoured with mayonnaise, lemon and chives. The salmon itself appeared to be the leftover or reject pieces of sashimi. But, that didn't matter, it was very fresh and tasted great. The only thing I would've added was a slice of lemon or lime for more acidity.

The Tuna Tempura was very delicately flavoured with just a splash of tempura sauce. Although the tuna was moist, it would've been better if it was not cooked completely through. We also ordered the Maple Roll, which consisted of spicy tuna on the inside and salmon, sesame, mayo, tobiko, tempura bits, and maple sauce on the outside. The roll on its own without soy/wasabi was a good combination of sweet and spicy. However, if you dipped it in soy sauce, the saltiness brought out more of the sweet maple flavour. In addition, we had the Combo 601, which consists of a BC Roll (4 pcs) and a Spicy Salmon Roll (6 pcs). This combo was huge, with the biggest BC Roll I've ever seen. It was served with warm and crunchy pieces of salmon skin, it was an excellent contrast in texture with the rice. The salmon roll was full of very spicy salmon; however, there was a bit too much rice for my liking.

Lastly, we had the Seafood (large filet of salmon, 2 prawns and 3 slices of fish cake) Ramen. The broth was very light and the ramen was al dente. Viv thought it was a bit too chewy, but I liked it. The salmon was moist and not overcooked; but, the prawns were overcooked. Service is as efficient as it can be with the limited amount of serves for such a busy restaurant. As busy as they are, the servers are pleasant and friendly. As I mentioned in my review of Akira Sushi, I categorized it as a "plan B" type of restaurant. Well, I can positively say that Toyotomi is a "plan A" restaurant. The prices are reasonable, the portions are large and the food quality is generally really good. I heard the table beside me exclaim that they hated Sushi Town. Now that I've tried Toyotomi, I am less enthusiastic about Sushi Town as well.

The Good:
- Good prices
- Generous portions
- Food tastes good

The Bad:
- Cramped quarters
- Friendly, but hurried service

Toyotomi Japanese
4121 Hastings Street
Burnaby, B.C.
604-676-1506

Business Hours:
11:30am - 10:00pm (Mon - Sun)

Toyotomi Japanese on Urbanspoon

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No. 1 Shanghai

We met up with Ben and Suanne from Chow Times today at No. 1 Shanghai restaurant in Richmond. It was the first time meeting up with them and I really have to say I enjoyed the company. It's nice to have another blogger with a family that we can meet up with! Despite the fact I have been eating non-stop for the last little while, I was quite hungry. I woke up pretty late today and had not eaten since I slept at 3:00am after Congee Noodle House. With the pleasantries out of the way, we got down to ordering.

I guess we kind of ordered randomly and ended up with a whole lot of food. Well, no problem, just more to take pictures of and more to blog about! Although... I did have camera envy, Ben has a very nice Canon DSLR. I really must go out and get one soon! We ordered so much, I actually had to take notes. I was getting confused as to what we ordered and what some of the items were! So here is the list of what we ordered: Xiao Long Bao (2), Szchewan Beef Noodle, Tan Tan Noodles, Shanghai Thick Noodles in Soup, Fried Pork Chop with Rice Cake (Neen Goh), 8 Treasures Spicy Noodle Soup, Pickled Vegetable and Pork with Rice, and Sticky Rice with Flavours (the flavour was most sweet red bean).

The Xiao Long Bao were quite juicy and had lots of meat flavour. However, the skin was ever-so-slightly thicker than the ones from Shanghai River and Shanghai Wonderful. The Szchewan noodles were okay, but the soup was curiously sweet and a bit thin. The broth was not as rich and full of meat flavour such as the one at #1 Beef Noodle House. However, the beef and the tendon were quite soft and flavourful. The Tan Tan noodles were quite good. It was a good balance of chili oil, peanut sauce, vinegar, sweet and salty. The noodles themselves were not overcooked and had some elasticity to them. The Shanghai noodles in soup were very good. The soup base had depth and the noodles were not mushy. The cabbage was still firm and the meat was not too fatty.

However, the pork chop with neen goh (rice cake) was not so good. It sure looked impressive, with big slices of neen goh buried beneath large pieces of fried pork chop. But, since the neen goh was in such large pieces, it was very chewy and hard to eat. In addition, it was difficult for the flavours to penetrate the large pieces of neen goh. The pork chop itself had way too much batter. There was more batter than pork chop. The 8 treasures noodle soup was a curious one. It arrived with the 8 treasures on a separate plate from the noodles. We spent some time figuring out what that dish was until we noticed that one of the bowl of noodles was quite lonely without any toppings whatsoever. I thought the 8 treasures were very good and supplied plenty of flavour to the plain noodles.

The pickled vegetables and pork with rice didn't do much for me. I guess it was a bit bland for my tastes. It wasn't bad, but it really lacked flavour. The sticky rice was an interesting dish. It arrived with a sweet glaze on top and was filled with sweet red bean, lotus root and gay jee (it's a red seed). The rice was very soft and slightly sweet. It was a pleasant dish to eat, but it was really a bundle of mush, so there was not much in the way of texture.

The meal as a whole was enjoyable. Nothing was really terrible, but nothing was all that memorable either. However, the prices were very reasonable. Moreover, the dining room itself is nicely decorated and modern. Even the washrooms were very clean and modern (think a la Cactus Club). The service was pretty good and efficient (despite what I read from other reviews). No. 1 Shanghai is not my first choice for Shanghainese Dim Sum, but it is a decent place to eat nonetheless.












The Good:

- Decent food at reasonable prices
- Comfortable dining room
- Good service

The Bad:
- Lack of parking
- Some other places have better food

No. 1 Shanghai
#120 - 4200 No. 3 Road
Richmond, B.C.
604-279-1728

Business Hours:
11:00am - 3:00pm, 5:00pm - 10:00pm (7 days a week)

No. 1 Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Hi Genki

Vandelay has been bugging me to try this place called Hi Genki for awhile now. I've been pretty skeptical - a Japanese restaurant in an old folks home?!?!? Just the image of that conjures up thoughts of hospital food. Bleck! But I finally relented and decided to give it a go. Hi Genki is located in the Nekkei Home on Southoaks Crescent in Burnaby. When I say it's in the home, it is right smack-dab at the front entrance. I wasn't even sure if I was in the right place; but alas, Vandelay and Donna Chang were there waiting for a table.

The restaurant was bustling with activity, it appears that a lot of people like to eat here. Right at the front near the cash register was a small table with all the specials of the day. That's right, the actual dishes (not some plastic interpretation) were displayed. This is one of the few times you get to see the food before ordering it. My initial impressions were that the portions of each dish were very generous. Furthermore, after looking over the menu, I was impressed that those portions were at reasonable prices. However, this shouldn't have been a revelation since Hi Genki is run by Fujiya, which is synonymous with value.

I continued to look at the menu and the Gindara Misoyaki caught my eye. For $8.95, you get miso-flavoured grilled black cod. I thought that was a fabulous deal since black cod is really expensive. When the dish arrived, I figured out why it was only $8.95. The pieces of black cod were actually the collar and fin bones. But, that was actually no problem to me because the most succulent part of the fish is near the bones in my opinion. However, for some others, this may be a total turn off. Rice, spring salad, konnyaku jelly, and a taro ball (that's what it tasted like, please correct me if I'm wrong) acommpanied the fish. Curiously, the salad dressing on top of the spring mix was Italian. First time I've ever had both spring mix and Italian dressing in a Japanese restaurant.

Vandelay ordered the Nabeyaki Udon, which came with a side of fried rice. I tried the udon and it was well... udon. It was no better or no worse than any other udons I've had everywhere else. Donna Chang (not her real name) ordered up some Japanese curry, specifically the Chicken Katsu Curry. Essentially, it's a breaded chicken cutlet over rice smothered with curry. Japanese curry is nothing like traditional Indian Curry, it's much sweeter and it's thickened with a roux. I tried some of it and it was indeed very mild and sweet. If you like that kind of curry, then it was pretty good.

We also got an order of Agedeshi Tofu and Korokke Teishoku (potato croquettes). The tofu were 2 big pieces topped with the usual grated daikon, green onion and bonito flakes. I liked the tofu, it was soft and not over-fried. The croquettes were coated with panko and it was fried perfectly. Nice colour and crispy on the outside, fluffy potato on the inside. We were also provided with a squeeze bottle of tonkatsu sauce for the croquettes. So what did I think of Hi Genki? Well, much like Fujiya, the food is not bad, but not great. Although I do think it is a very good value, since it has a good combination of decent food, good prices and generous portions.

The Good:
- Low prices
- Generous portions
- Free underground parking

The Bad:
- All the positive reviews create unrealistic expectations for the food

Hi Genki
6680 Southoaks Crescent
Burnaby, B.C.
604-777-0533
www.fujiya.ca

Business Hours:
11:30am - 3:00pm, 6:00pm - 8:30pm (Mon - Sun)

Hi Genki on Urbanspoon

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